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Full text of "My Country And My People"

23O           MY    COUNTRY    AND    MY    PEOPLE

thought for the poor tea-picking girl or for the mulberry
maiden, for the secluded and forsaken lover, for the mother
whose son is far away in army service, and for the common
people whose lives are harassed by war. Above all, it teaches
them a pantheistic union with nature, to awake and rejoice
with spring, to doze off and hear time visibly flying away in the
droning of the cicada in summer, to feel sad with the falling
autumn leaves, and "to look for lines of poetry in snow" in
winter. In this sense, poetry may well be called the Chinaman's
religion. I hardly think that, without their poetry—the
poetry of living habits as well as the poetry of words—the
Chinese people could have survived to this day.

Yet Chinese poetry would not have achieved such an im-
portant place in Chinese life without definite reasons for it.
First, the Chinese artistic and literary genius, which thinks in
emotional concrete imagery and excels in the painting of
atmosphere, is especially suitable to the writing of poetry.
Their characteristic genius for contraction, suggestion, sublim-
ation and concentration, which unfits them for prose within
the classical limits, makes the writing of poetry natural and
easy to them. If, as Bertrand Russell says, "in art they aim at
being exquisite, and in life as being reasonable," then it is
natural for them to excel in poetry. Chinese poetry is dainty.
It is never long, and never very powerful. But it is eminently
fitted for producing perfect gems of sentiment and for painting
with a few strokes a magical scenery, alive with rhythmic
beauty and informed with spiritual grace.

The whole tenor of Chinese thought, too, encourages the
writing of poetry as the highest crown of the literary art.
Chinese education emphasizes the development of the all-
round man, and Chinese scholarship emphasizes the unity of
knowledge. Very specialized sciences, like archaeology, are
few, and the Chinese archaeologists always remain human,
capable of taking an interest in their family or in the pear tree
in their courtyard. Poetry is exactly that type of creation
which calls for man's faculty of general synthesis; in other
words, for man's ability to look at life as a whole. Where they
fail in analysis, they achieve in synthesis.
There is yet another important reason. Poetry is essentially